Nigeria arrests members of the 'Avengers'

A new mysterious militant group is rising to prominence, inflicting huge damage on world oil infrastructure. Will new arrests provide clues?

Ari Yashar ,

African jihadists (illustration)
African jihadists (illustration)

A mysterious new militant group called the "Niger Delta Avengers" has recently jumped to international prominence by wreaking havoc on Nigeria's oil infrastructure, but new arrests may shed light on the group's identity and motives.

The Nigerian army arrested several suspected members of the group, reports BBC on Monday.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, but recently the drop in global oil prices has hampered its economy, and massive damage inflicted by the group in attacks earlier this month in the country's south have had a serious impact.

The "Niger Delta Avengers" gained infamy after bombing a Chevron facility off the coast of Escravos back on May 4, reports the Stratfor intelligence firm on Monday.

Then just a week later the group struck again, hitting Chevron Nigeria Ltd.'s Marakaba line oil facility located in Warri.

Due to the attacks by the "Avengers," US oil giant Chevron closed an offshore platform this month and other oil companies including Shell have withdrawn personnel from the area and shut down facilities.

As a result, Nigeria's oil output levels have plunged to levels not seen since the early 1990s.

The "Avengers" made an ultimatum on May 12, promising to strike again in two weeks if Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari did not give in to its political demands.

However, Stratfor notes that one-third of Nigeria's oil production is conducted far from the shore in the Gulf of Guinea, meaning the militants have little chance of toppling the African nation's oil industry entirely - for now at least.

The "Niger Delta Avengers" remain secretive, leaving Nigeria struggling to identify them, but according to the analysts they may be "avenging" a crackdown on corruption.

Stratfor points out that Buhari from Nigeria's north defeated former President Goodluck Jonathan last year, replacing his policy of giving key influence, rewards and power to the Niger Delta region.

"Since assuming office, Buhari has endeavored to answer some of his constituents' demands by dismantling the system, rooting out corruption in the oil industry and reforming it to increase transparency. Many of the Niger Delta's politicians see this redistribution of power and revenue as a loss in a zero-sum game," reveals Stratfor, explaining potential motives of the militant group.